Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Yard Robin Liked Me Better

The house we just moved from had a large yard, and I spent many hours each week weeding it as well as planting more things to weed around. When I wasn't weeding and planting, I was making watercolors of the flowers.

The yard birds got used to my presence and generally ignored me, except the chickadees, who would start chipping as soon as I came out the back door. The chipping would continue until I'd gotten out the hose and sprayed water on the leaves of the crab apple tree. Although there was a bird bath in the yard that was always full of clean water, playing in wet leaves must have been more fun.

One yard bird, however, sought out my companionship without demanding a shower in return: a female robin. She would hop around in the garden, pulling up worms while I pulled out weeds. When she had a nest of babies, the hopping and pulling would become more and more rapid, as the frantic peeping of the nestlings grew more and more frantic, until momentarily quieted by her return to the nest with an installment of lunch.

Otherwise, the robin spent more time hopping around than pulling. As months and years passed, her hopping brought her into a smaller and smaller radius around me, until one day, as I made a painting of my Beatrix Potter foxglove, the robin spent most of the afternoon within reaching distance.

One Saturday morning, I was pulling some grass out of the garden bed, all concentration, not paying any attention to the yard birds. Bill came outside to visit, and after a few moments, pointed out a dead robin in the garden about 15 feet from me. I looked over and was horrified to see the still, contorted form of the yard robin.

"What do you want to do?" Bill asked.

Fighting back stinging tears, I told him to leave me alone for a while so I could think about it. Considering how to bury my dear little friend was beyond my abilities at that moment.

"I'll just go in the house and let you be, then," he said.

I turned back to my weeding with a heavy and sore heart. As the back door closed behind Bill, from the corner of my eye I noticed a movement in the vicinity of the dead robin. I turned my head just in time to see her hop up, shake out her feathers, and fly over the fence to her nest!

Now, I've heard of birds pretending to be injured in order to lure predators away from their nest but never about a bird actually playing dead. But every time Bill came into the yard, that's exactly what the yard robin did. It got to be quite a joke. "There's a dead robin in the yard," Bill would announce following a backyard tour. "Yup," I'd say, "We sure have a lot of dead robins around here!"

Dead Robin, NOT

So, isn't it obvious that the yard robin liked me better? Finally one of my pets didn't ditch me for Bill.

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Bill can't steal the affections of ALL my pets.

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polusladkaia said...

Megan, thank you for linking this in our Seattle Plein Air blog! A marvellous story. I read it out loud to my husband and he was astonished also. I think you are a whisperer to many species including us humans.
Don't know if you posted the lovely foxglove painting on this blog somewhere too, but here it is so others can see it too:

Megan Seagren said...

That's so sweet of you to say that, Beth. I think anyone can make friends with wild creatures by being very very patient and keeping voice and movements gentle. Of course, I don't think I'd test that out on a bobcat or grizzly.